Signs of supermarket delivery slot shortage amid fears of a return to panic buying

Sam Meadows
·3-min read
Supermarket shelves were empty amid a surge of panic buying in March - Paul Grover for the Telegraph
Supermarket shelves were empty amid a surge of panic buying in March - Paul Grover for the Telegraph
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

A supermarket delivery slot shortage has started to emerge amid fears of a return to panic buying.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the UK is in the grip of a second wave of coronavirus and speculation is growing of a second lockdown as the nation attempts to once again get a grip on the pandemic.

There are signs that the public could be stockpiling home delivery slots, according to one expert, after reports that Morrisons is reintroducing its Covid-19 rules including queues outside stores and staff at the door to limit customer numbers.

However, several major grocers insisted there was good availability of online delivery slots and that there had not been any major signs of panic buying in the past few days.

Supermarkets dramatically boosted their delivery capacity during the last lockdown, as online grew from around seven per cent of the market to around 14 per cent. Retailers including Tesco and Sainsbury’s more than doubled capacity.

Andrew Opie, of the British Retail Consortium, a trade body representing the biggest grocers, urged shoppers to be considerate.

He said: “Retailers have done an excellent job in ensuring customers have access to the food and necessities throughout this pandemic. Supermarkets have put in place a range of safety measures to protect staff and customers. 

“In the event of future lockdowns we urge consumers to be considerate and shop for food as they would usually during this difficult time. ”

How Britain's grocers rose to the challenge of feeding the nation
How Britain's grocers rose to the challenge of feeding the nation

Martyn James, a consumer expert at Resolver, said the service had seen a 20 per cent uptick in complaints about online delivery, which was a sign that slots could be in short supply.

“It does suggest that people are nervous about another lockdown and stocking up on supplies,” he said.

“Last time it was the oldest and most vulnerable people who need [delivery slots] the most who couldn’t get them. 

“If any organisations have learned the lessons of the past in lockdown, it’s the supermarkets. It’s in their interests to make sure that the maximum number of people can get the goods and services they need.

“As long as everyone stays calm there will be enough to go around. What we don’t need is people rushing out and block-booking and making it incredibly hard for people who need those slots to get them.”

Several grocers told the Telegraph that there is good availability for home delivery slots.

A spokesman for Waitrose said: “We haven’t seen a significant change in buying patterns but we have a number of safety measures in place and we’ll take whatever action is necessary for the health and safety of our customers.”

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “We have significantly increased the number of slots available on our website and can now serve twice as many people as we could six months ago. 

“There is good availability of slots and trading patterns this weekend have been normal.”

Ocado and Asda both said that customers should be able to get a delivery slot in the next few days.